AWARE gets older, wiser 

New board pledges to continue course, while refocusing on local projects

For the second year in a row the election to the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment board of directors had more candidates than spaces, with 15 individuals running for 12 spots.

"It’s not a problem we’re used to having, and it’s a nice problem to have," said Brad Kasselman, a six-year member of the board who was selected as AWARE’s new president at the group’s annual general meeting on Thursday, Feb. 3.

The next year will be challenging, says Kasselman, the co-owner and operator of Coast Mountain Photography.

It’s a huge commitment, and Kasselman debated whether he could accept the position. In the end he decided that it was worthwhile.

"I do work full-time, but on the other hand I also believe in this thing called Whistler and want to keep it a pristine resource. I’ve been on the board for six years, and decided it was time to step up and rise to the challenge."

Although the group is already working on several campaigns and projects, there are several areas that Kasselman would like to see AWARE focus on in the next year. The first area is the ongoing development of Olympic venues and legacies, which he believes will require more attention as construction gets underway.

"All of the projects that are supposed to happen will happen this year, or next year or the year after that, but the decisions on those projects are being made right now," said Kasselman.

"(AWARE) needs to engage VANOC in a positive and proactive way to give us some working examples of sustainability, which was a big part of the bid. The people of Whistler should know everything that’s being said and being planned right now, because we’re going to be the ones affected at the end of the day."

Although the Sea to Sky LRMP process has wrapped up and participants are waiting for the provincial government to address the recommendations, the process has revealed another area of concern for AWARE – the lack of a regional policy for Independent Power Projects (IPPs) in the Sea to Sky corridor.

"The LRMP participants, municipal governments and even our regional government the SLRD (Squamish-Lillooet Regional District), as well as the general public, have recognized the need for, and have called for, a regional IPP strategy," said Kasselman. "We fully support the concept of greener power but the unplanned, free-for-all attitude that exists currently can only damage this emerging industry.

"It’s not an issue we went looking for, it came to us and it’s really too big to ignore."

In 2005 AWARE will also continue to advocate for OWL, Our Wilderness Legacy, a proposal that would see most of the upper Soo Valley protected from resource extraction and development. VANOC does not currently recognize the proposal, but the provincial government will evaluate it as part of the Sea to Sky LRMP recommendations.

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